The Consciousness of Trees

BarkI seem to write about trees quite often and perhaps, given that I live in a leafy part of the city, it is quite natural that they should find their way into my blog.  But, somehow, I sense there is more to it than mere propinquity and the other day I caught a glimmer of what lies beneath the surface.

It was the most banal of situations.  There I sat, in my car, waiting for the traffic lights to turn green.  I was on my way to have X-rays for my spine which is misbehaving in rather inconvenient ways, thanks to the relentless passage of time.  So you see, I was rather preoccupied with the mundane, rather than being absorbed in contemplation of the eternal verities, as you might otherwise have supposed.

Aware that the lights at that intersection are notorious for their glacial slowness, I turned my head to look at the small bushland park beside the road.  It is rather unkempt, a tangle of branches and rampant undergrowth, and not particularly attractive.  That very thought was forming in my mind when a broad tree trunk caught my eye – nothing special, just a towering eucalypt like so many in this part of the world.

Then, for a brief moment, there was a shift, and I saw with startling clarity that this was a Being.  I am tempted to dismiss it by saying that many of us regard all living things as fellow beings, because it is true – it is something we often say, especially when those beings are threatened by what passes for progress in this money-obsessed world of ours.

But this was different.  For those seconds before the lights changed, I felt the essence of that tree – its being-ness, its life-force, if you will – or what we, with our human arrogance, might call its rudimentary consciousness.  It seemed possess a kind of awareness of its environment, and this called to mind the captivating myths of J. R. R. Tolkien who used allegory to describe the nascent consciousness of the living world and what we suffer when its wellbeing is ignored.

The lights changed, the moment passed, and I focused once more on negotiating the afternoon traffic as the road drew me onward to my appointment.  I can no longer capture the fullness of that singular moment, but the memory of its wonder remains.  That, at least, is something I can share with you.




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